All over the world, human presence has transformed nature permanently; why should Antarctica be different? The hostile conditions on the continent might have limited our presence there, but the inroads made, even during the white expanse of Antarctic winter, have undoubtedly changed this place. As the continent has become more accessible, countries, even those that have pledged environmental protections, are taking advantage of its plentiful resources.
While the West has scaled back operations in the Antarctic, Russia and China have pushed ahead.
It’s a golden time for Antarctic research, with more and more countries taking a direct interest in the great southern continent. But suspicions abound as to the real motivations of key Antarctic players.
I remember teaching about the resources associated with Antarctica in Geography, but what I feel was missed in hindsight was why it matters, especially as the world progressively warms up. Discussing the Arctic, Dahr Jamail explains how the degredation of such spaces impact us all. This is also something James Bridle discusses in his book the New Dark Age.
Archaeological discoveries can also boost political support for a case back home. “When remains or objects are found in the ice, I could see straight away it would inflate territorial nationalism,” says Dodds. “Archaeology has always been really important for national politics.”
Other events, such as historic shipwrecks, could play a similar role as the Yamana skull. In 1819, the Spanish frigate San Telmo was wrecked in the Drake Passage, which separates the tip of Chile from the Antarctic Peninsula. Archaeologists have searched the Antarctic islands for signs of whether any crew made it alive to the shore.
Using years of satellite data and photography, researchers have constructed an extremely detailed terrain map called the Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica that maps 98% of the continent down to a resolution of 8 meters. That makes it the most detailed terrain map of any continent.
There’s a settlement in Antarctica with a school, a post office and a huddle of homes. It’s like other sub-zero villages, except for one thing: families must have surgery to move in.